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Illustration by Security Management

Turkish Protests Against Domestic Violence

Rallies were held throughout Turkey yesterday, with women protesting against an upcoming decision from the country’s ruling party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), on whether or not to leave a European treaty regarding gender-based violence. 

The Council of Europe Convention, commonly referred to as the Istanbul Convention, is a treatise on combating and preventing violence against women. In May 2011, Turkey, the European Union, and 44 other countries signed the accord, promising to prevent and eradicate domestic violence, as well as to hold domestic violence offenders accountable and promote equality. Effective as of 2014, the accord is the first to call for mandatory protection of women, including against sexual harassment, rape, honor crimes, genital mutilation, and more.

Backed by an increase in the country’s domestic violence cases over the past few months, Turkish women were initially spurred to demonstrating in the streets after the murder of 27-year-old student Pinar Gultekin, who was strangled, burned, and left in a barrel in July. According to authorities, her ex-boyfriend confessed to the killing.

So far in 2020, an estimated 205 women in Turkey have been killed. In 2019, 474 women in Turkey were murdered, most of them by current or former partners, family members, or unrelated men who wanted a relationship with them. The number of murdered women per year has more than doubled since 2012.

Recently, the Istanbul Convention has triggered a new round of public debates, although women’s rights in Turkey have been a topic of contention for the past decade.

Opponents of the treaty have been lobbying President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP to pull Turkey out of the pact, claiming that the Istanbul Convention erodes family values and traditional gender roles, imports Western values, and promotes LGBT lifestyles, according to CNN

The party said that it will decide if it will remain a signee of the Istanbul Convention by next week.

The “anti-femicide” demonstrations surged to the largest number yet this week in response to the AKP’s announcement. Women carried banners and signs with phrases such as “Women will not be silenced anymore” and “Istanbul Convention keeps you alive.” 

Turkey is not the only country considering a departure from the accord. Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki asked the country’s top constitutional court to look into the agreement as he and his party consider pulling Poland out of the treaty. Croatia and Serbia are also debating the accord.